WARNING: Significant spoilers follow
Very seldom do I actually scream, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” when I’m watching a TV show. The season finale of The Newsroom made me do that. I’m not joking nor exaggerating, and, yes, that’s an exact quote. It’s not something I’m pleased about.
The moment came, as you might expect, during part of the “relationships” aspect of the show. In that moment, Maggie (Allison Pill), was splashed by a blatant bit of product placement for Sex in the City, goes on a rambling rant about the reality of being a single woman in the city, and sees that Jim (john Gallagher, Jr) is on the bus. Cue my screaming.
What a stupid, awful, idiotic, pointless, contrived way of moving a plot forward. It makes the relationship twists from Twilight look rapier-like in their subtlety. That it ends with Jim kissing Maggie in that “hands on either side of her head like he’s going to pull it off” pose that people use in movies and TV but never in real life, was just icing on the sour, flat cake.
I have gone on at length about how the relationship stories destroy this show, and they do. Believe me when I say that I don’t care even slightly about the relationships and romantic lives of any of these characters. Make me care about the characters first, then let relationships come up organically. Don’t force it. This is Writing 101 crap, and Aaron Sorkin, who remains among the best in the business when it comes to writing, has either forgotten this basic rule or has decided he just doesn’t give a crap.
Normally there’s enough good in the form of “sausage making” story to hold my interest and give me something to grab on to and enjoy. That should have been the case here. I should have really been into the story when Charlie’s (Sam Waterston) NSA source killed himself. I should have cared deeply about Will (Jeff Daniels), facing firing over being high on the air. When Charlie, Will and McKenzie (Emily Mortimer) had their moment of triumph over Leona (Jane Fonda), and her obnoxious son, I should have stood up and cheered. I really should have been happy when Will refers to the Christianist elements of the Tea Party people as “the American Taliban,” as that’s pretty much what I think of them. But I just couldn’t. By that point, the show’s horrible relationship writing had alienated me way too much.
I know, I know. I go off on this issue way too much. The horse is, by this point, just a bloody smear on the ground. But this story, and indeed, this season, was dominated by stupid romantic subplots. We had Will/McKenzie, Will/Nina, Don/Maggie, Jim/Maggie, Jim/Lisa, and in this episode, the potential of Don/Sloane. This is made all the worse by two things: the fact that every single woman in these relationship stories tends to come off as a simpering idiot whenever her man is around or being discussed (thus making this show a horrible failure when it comes to the Bechdel test), and the fact that all of these pairings are heterosexual. The latter is especially vexing on a network that’s made a point of working gay, lesbian or bisexual characters into basically everything they’ve done.
I will not give up hope. When season two rolls around, I’ll be back to watch and review the show. But I deeply, sincerely hope that in the meantime, Sorkin hires a writer whose one and only job it is to handle all the relationship stories. If I can crib a moment from The West Wing, “Let Sorkin be Sorkin”. When it comes to sausage making stories, he’s the best there is. But keep him far, far away from this kind of soap opera BS.
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